On Wednesday, a San Jose Earthquakes player, Marcos Lopez, had an appendectomy while the team is preparing for the MLS is Back Tournament in Orlando. Those things happen, there’s not much you can do to prevent them.
But on the subject of health, there are two general concerns for all teams, including the Earthquakes, at the MLS is Back Tournament.
The first is standard-issue concerns over injuries in a compressed schedule. To an extent, injuries to athletes are part of life in sports. You can’t prevent all of them from happening, although you can try to prepare and maintain the players’ bodies as well as possible to limit injuries.
But with games coming thick and fast and the training camp lasting just a couple weeks, with the Quakes needing to catch up more than any other club, having not been able to hold full team training in the Bay Area before heading to Orlando, the risks of injury would seem to go up considerably. A shorter run-up plus short rest, even with teams being able to use five substitutes in a game, means the injury risk may be sky-high for the restart event.
And depending on the ailment, an injury picked up in Orlando could be much more costly in the long run. If MLS plan to play again in home venues once the MLS is Back Tournament ends, if anyone is still playing sports at that point, a torn ACL or hamstring tear doesn’t just sideline a player for a few weeks — it will take months to recover, potentially. Again, injuries are part of the game, but we’ll see if teams or the whole league sees a surge in injuries during the upcoming tournament.
The other aspect of wondering if the Quakes can stay healthy is outside of injuries but looking at, you guessed it, coronavirus. San Jose’s scheduled opponent, FC Dallas, is going through effectively a team outbreak this week, with nine players and a coach testing positive for coronavirus since arriving in Orlando. They have been hit hardest, but how good is the bubble if the people entering it keep testing positive for coronavirus?
Before departing San Jose, the Quakes said no players had contracted coronavirus during the shutdown. While some of that is down to luck and external factors, one should offer some kudos to the team and players for staying responsible and taking the quarantine seriously.
But with infections spiking around the country, including parts of California and Florida, and more and more people entering the bubble, can the Quakes stay healthy? Can they avoid a team outbreak? If anyone does contract it, will they recover or suffer long-term effects?
The players themselves have been upbeat about their prospects regarding coronavirus, before and after arriving in Orlando, but a few positive tests right before or during the games and all bets are off, to say nothing of their health, first and foremost. As young men in better shape than the general population, I understand why they don’t appear to be overly worried about coronavirus, but we just don’t know at this point. I wonder if the mental energy spent wondering about contracting coronavirus will hit players at a certain point, or if they will remain in high spirits, thinking surely they won’t be impacted.
All of this is to say, along with the MLS is Back Tournament being a totally new experience on the field for the Quakes and the rest of the league, the health risks are unprecedented, too. Will San Jose escape unscathed? In some ways, that would be a like a win itself.
What do you think? Leave a comment below.